Why people used to go to church + why they now go to Google + Facebook instead

In case you haven’t seen them yet, check out Part 1 and Part 2.

For many years, I have maintained that Google is something like the Pope of the Internet: Google’s index functions quite similarly to what used to be referred to as the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (well, it actually works in revers — linking to “allowed” content rather than “prohibited” content, but either way it’s essentially all about censorship).

There are many reasons why people used to go to church — and truth telling sermons were only one of them (and for those who might have snored during the sermon, even these were perhaps not a very compelling reason). Sitting in wooden pews was probably also hardly one of them (pun intended ;) ).

Maybe the homemade chewy chocolate brownies were a motivator; perhaps the coffee helped; singing in the choir might have played a role; but certainly all of the chit-chat and latest gossip exchanged after the more pious and reserved service were probably a prize worth holding out for. This is, of course, a function now taken over by Facebook (so-and-so got married, little X’s birthday is coming up, etc.)

If you are able to convince someone that you have the undeniable truth, or that the inside scoop is to be gotten exclusively behind your four walls, then this may indeed be comparable to reinventing the wheel. If you were able to do that, you may very well be on your way to creating a really big deal — a part of what John Battelle refers to when describes how publishers seek to have “folks keep coming back” for more.

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How the Traditional Publishing Complex Tamed the Mob … and What Outsiders Could Learn from Justine Musk

So far, the Internet has only experienced one major crash: The very poorly named “Dot Com” crash of 2001. This had nothing to do with the “dot com” top-level domain per se. It had much more to do with a much more general and very much premature hyping of all things Internet — and then when it became clear that 9 out of 10 ideas were hare-brained, 9 out of 10 online business models went out of business. Note, however, that by this time the Internet had already become — or at the very least it had started to become — a force to be reckoned with. This was the first heyday of bloggers and wikis — for example, consider what happened when¬†Trent Lott spoke on December 5, 2002 at the 100th birthday party of Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina:

In the wake of controversy, Lott resigned as Senate Republican Leader on December 20, 2002, effective at the start of the next session, January 3, 2003. Bill Frist of Tennessee was later elected to the leadership position. In the book Free Culture, Lawrence Lessig argues that Lott’s resignation would not have occurred had it not been for the effect of Internet blogs. He says that though the story “disappear[ed] from the mainstream press within forty-eight hours”, “bloggers kept researching the story” until, “finally, the story broke back into the mainstream press.

By the time Digg was founded in 2004, it had become very clear to the traditional publishing industry that something was afoot: their business was eroding from beneath — and if something didn’t happen quite soon, then the traditional publishing industry would be gone in short shrift.

Note that the traditional publishing industry had been a crucial element in many advanced economies worldwide, strongly influencing education, research, propaganda and much, much more. If this were to simply crumble and break overnight, a much larger traditional publishing complex would probably go down with it — and therefore many people were very worried. Some more examples of this worrisome trend included many new websites created around a “classified advertising” model (such as craigslist), and Google’s then-still-new AdWords system.

Then, some time around 2006, things began to change. Perhaps the most indicative instance of how things were changing was the “Google Press Day” event held on May 10, 2006 (Google has since removed links to the documentation it had disclosed about these presentations from its investor.google.com website). Although this event was not widely covered by the press, it was attended by many leaders in the publishing industry. Google officers explained their business model, and how they were tweaking their algorithms so that searches for terms such as “credit card” would be made to return search engine results pages (SERPs) with the brand names of companies doing business in that market segment. All in all, Google seemed to be making a case for mutual collaboration with the traditional publishing complex, rather than competing with it.

Since then, many other websites are using a similar approach — and most prominent among this new model of “co-opetition” is, of course: Facebook. Yet large parts of the so-called “mobile web” are also very much about advertising to users, and also tracking user behavior. Google, Facebook & Co. had now become transformed from a “Wild West” marketplace into a partner that more and more members of the traditional publishing complex could work with quite well — and thereby increasingly publish traditional publishing stories in a newfangled way… called “social media“.

The advantage of this new approach for members of the traditional media complex is that they no longer need to compete with the revolutionary mobs found in the innumerable and uncontrolled spaces on the “Wild West Web”. Google, Facebook, Twitter, et. al. would reduce such “unknown” people into insignificance, and instead promote those brands which the entire traditional publishing complex have come to rely on. Although many people will probably not recognize the similarity to the way some North African governments collaborated with North African Internet service providers to basically “turn off the Internet” in North Africa during the Arab Spring, the leading brand names operating in the “social media” space can very effectively squelch out any message that is in opposition to the messages advertisers seek to get across.

If you are not an advertiser, not a publisher, not a member of the traditional publishing complex,… — if you are not affiliated with this industry in any way, then what can you do (if you want to be heard)?

Some people may choose to go out on the streets and protest, but others may find that to be a nuisance… — or at least a rather ineffective alternative. Also: It is not clear whether the best solutions are to be found by figuring out which group can shout the loudest. What if your aim is to find solutions to problems through rational thought?

Beyond polishing up rational thinking skills, such outsiders might also need to brush up on literacy skills — especially those literacy skills that are not taught in most educational systems: The ability to effectively express and also to publish your own ideas in a manner that will enable readers who are thirsty for enlightenment to easily grasp the useful and practical advice such information can provide.

One of my favorite leaders in this field is Justine Musk — not necessarily because of the topics she writes about, but primarily because of her great skill in doing so. Justine has a knack for explaining topics in a very simple and straightforward manner — and these are topics her readers are very thirsty to read more about. Her arguments are usually well thought out, and therefore they are usually also very compelling.

I have not read any of Justine’s fiction-writing, but in my opinion most of her non-fiction writing campaigns are very successful.

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Do you understand the gravity of the matter?

The other day I argued that there is no such thing as an objectively “true” language (at least not for feeble-minded humans). If you missed that, then please go ahead and check out “Science vs. Relativity” before venturing on. ;)

Today, I want to underscore how important this is for regular folks living everyday lives.

Let me first note that there is a huge sector of the education industry that has been busily working on creating such “true” and/or “scientific” languages for quite a long time already… — and the fanatical advocates of such “truthers” often carry flags with the letters “STEM” written on them (which are supposed to stand for “science”, “technology”, “engineering” and “mathematics”, respectively). Some invent abstract symbols like “2”, “4”, “+”, “=”, etc. (and then have fun creating tautological statements like “2 + 2 = 4″), others collect holy measuring sticks (and other physical objects) and use these to measure things, and newer breeds devise algorithms that are suppose to produce meaningful output, such as “standard deviation” or “gross national product”.

What most of these intellectual games have in common is — very broadly speaking — the notion that there is “one right answer”, and in order to figure out this correct answer you simply have to observe data in the real world and then plug it into a formula. In theory, there should be no ambiguity whatsoever — either something is, or it isn’t…. There is no “maybe” — definitely (note, however, that some scientists — for example Einstein — were very careful and repeatedly warned about how to interpret statistics… especially with regard to such ideas as certainty, uncertainty, “hard facts” and so on).

Ideally (for STEM fanatics), if the world followed the theoretical textbook (instead of the other way around), then it might even be possible for one theory to “match up” with another theory — in other words, that the data would “line up” and one theoretical equation might essentially entail another equation, too. The entire universe might work as one huge interconnected clockwork machinery-thing.

But alas, we are mere mortals… and so far we haven’t collected enough data yet. :|

The most fanatical of such data wizards would go forth with “punch cards” and remind you that your entire genome is nothing but a stream of ones and zeros… :| — but if asked what a “genome” is, they might have a somewhat glazed look in their eyes…. :|

In the real world, the first thing you do in the morning is to get up, maybe make some coffee, perhaps eat a bite of this or that, but most importantly: SMILE! :D

Ask any data wiz how “smile” can be translated into ones and zeros — they will without a doubt be dumbfounded. 8O

Smiles and clouds are extremely important in our daily lives, but they simply do not translate into simple “STEM” formulas.

The real world is wall-to-wall maybe. Uncertainty lurks around every corner. We do our best by making educated guesses (like: “has the day started yet?” might be answered with “the sun has been up for half an hour already!” [note though, that such statements are not completely "unscientific" either ;) ]).

Languages that have evolved over many millennia (rather than being “invented” more-or-less overnight) are streamlined by evolution in order to meet the needs of their “users”… and this often means they are adapted to working well in particular contexts (for example: if it is important for users to differentiate between “snow” and “ice”, then there may very well be easy ways to express such differences in the language the users choose to use [and such choices will also affect the development of the language -- again: as described by Piaget's concepts of "accommodation" and "assimilation"]).

The point is this: Since the world is (from our limited point of view) inherently uncertain, there is no reason to favor an unambiguous, quasi-“scientifically-correctcontrived “fly-by-night” language over a language that has gone through thousands of years of evolution. To do so would be on par with an attempt to re-invent the wheel. Why would anyone want to do that?

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Science vs. Relativity

In science, there is a tendency to prefer universal truths over localized observations. For example: the reason why people believe that gravity is a scientific “fact of life” is not simply because one apple happened to fall down on someone’s head somewhere, and also not because they happened to fall down in England at some point in time, but rather (so the theory goes) that all kinds of matter will behave the same way throughout time and space. Scientists cannot really make direct observations across vast spans of time or space, but they are nonetheless very willing to make universal statements in the name of science.

There is some nuanced irony to the idea that observations from experiments should be “verifiable”. The idea behind this is that a scientific law should always hold true, but the irony is that the conditions are never exactly the same (since time has elapsed, the universe has changed, etc.). Besides: Perhaps the reason why something happens is entirely hidden from our ability to observe it. Perhaps the most amazing thing of all is that so many believe science to be undeniable truth.

One of Einstein’s significant contributions to the field of science was his notion of “frame of reference”. According to this view, the same phenomena can be interpreted differently, according to which frame of reference one happens to take. Hence, the moon seems to revolve around the earth when a stationary earth is taken as the frame of reference… but both revolve around the sun if the sun is considered the (stationary) frame of reference, and so on (with regards to the Milky Way galaxy, etc.).

Each frame of reference can be see as its own “world view”, a way of describing the universe from a particular vantage point, a particularly localized speck in space (and time). The elements of vastly complex systems may be viewed differently from each of these different frames of reference, and these different points of view may very well give rise to different languages — different ways of observing, and perhaps also different observations — see also “Noam Chomsky Talks at Google“.

As Professor Chomsky emphasizes in the interview¬† linked above, the loss of any one of these world views (i.e., languages) is a loss for humanity, a further limitation of perspective. Our knowledge of the universe becomes lessened each time we eradicate another way of describing it. Having a single, universal language would be extremely limiting! Again: Ironically, this is what many seem to expect from “science”.

Whether or not this is a valid objection to the hegemony of “science” as a universally true language, we also need to take a step back and consider what this means for regular humans: Most people would no longer be able to speak at all. You could no longer say “you”, “me”, “I think”, “yesterday”, “right now”,… nor indeed most of the elements of any natural whatsoever. Consider something as simple as noting the image a cloud in the sky makes: In order to speak precisely, your remark would have to make reference to every single speck of dust in the sky, every single water molecule attached to every single speck, all of the atoms moving in various directions, and all with reference to some centralized universal frame of reference. Even if this weren’t impossible, it would still be so ridiculously complicated that it would vastly exceed what any single human being could muster.

Every single moment of every single day, we all vastly over-simplify the vast complexity of the world we live in — in order to be able to make any sense of it at all… and we each do this by invoking various frames of reference, each tailored to the contexts we experience. We constantly interpret the world around us — as Piaget said: by accommodating and assimilating new observations into our already acquired knowledge about the world, thereby constantly revising and reformulating our language(s).

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Public Transportation in the United States of America

I was traveling in the USA this summer, and after I had a very negative experience due to an incompetent worker in the public transportation industry I vowed I would write a blog post about it. Actually, I sort of threatened it, saying if that Greyhound did not apologize for the poor service (which lead to a delay of several hours, such that we were no longer able to arrive during daylight hours :| ) then I would call them out on it.

Well, if I hadn’t written the previous bit, then I would have lied before — and I didn’t want to do that, either.

With that out of the way, I would like to add something more useful to this topic. Put simply, public transportation fails in the United States of America for no other reason than this: Many / Most Americans don’t want public transportation. If the public doesn’t want public transportation, then public transportation doesn’t need to work. If public transportation doesn’t need to work, then why invest any money in trying to make it work? Wouldn’t it make much more sense to simply employ incompetent people at minimum wage and not to worry about what they do at all? Granted, not all people who work in public transportation are incompetent, but apparently no one to cares whether they are or not.

It seems that in the USA, the way the so-called “free market” incentivizes someone to be more than incompetent is to pay more than the minimum wage. I don’t know the exact numbers, but it seems to me that the main difference between someone receiving unemployment and the minimum wage is that people who receive the minimum wage are will to get up and do something (whether they do it well or not doesn’t seem to matter all that much).

Until Americans realize that their level of consumption of fossil fuels is preposterously high, there doesn’t seem to be much reason for them to want public transportation to work. Although the next oil shock — if it is significant enough — might make that happen, Americans are still completely unprepared for it. It will probably be messy, but there is no doubt in my mind that it will have to happen sometime… and probably sometime relatively soon.

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Generic Community Languages

I have been thinking about the meaning / significance of the various “generic” top-level domains decades for at least a decade, and now I have come up with something I consider a “workable” way to think about it.

First of all: Anyone who considers any top-level domain should pay attention to which legal framework that TLD is subject to (it’s so-called “jurisdiction”). This is the single most significant aspect. However, as all generic TLDs are currently subject to the laws of the United States (the .name registry used to be managed in the United Kingdom, but is now being managed in the United States), all generic TLDs are equivalent from that point of view.

Secondly: Since they were started, most generic TLDs have been strongly influenced by cultural norms in the United States… and at the same time also by something like a “Global English” language. For the 3 oldest generic TLDs, this has lead to the following interpretations:

  • COM = particularly commercial

  • ORG = particularly organisational

  • NET = not particularly anything

Two other notable generic top-level domains — INFO and BIZ — were started later than the original generic names (COM, NET and ORG), and therefore these might be characterized by such attributes as “latecomer”, “small business” and/or perhaps particularly keyword-oriented (as there is usually no reason not to register a [commercial or organisational] brand name in either the COM or the ORG registry).

So far, however, these “latecomer” TLDs are not very well developed — and therefore there are virtually no established conventions to speak of regarding the use of these newer top-level domains (except, perhaps, being particularly “English Language” … especially “Global English”).

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How to Tell Whether a TLD is a Generic TLD or a Proprietary TLD

Simply enter the name of TLD into the browser bar and then add .NAME

In the .NAME registry, the TLD name for generic domain names are reserved words and cannot be register — so if you get no response, then the TLD is probably a true generic TLD (otherwise, it is probably a proprietary domain name). ;)

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The Mystery of Self-Organisation

Everywhere we look, we identify organisations ordered top-down (by fiat), or via “grass roots” movements,… — or, if we have no clue how a specific order came about, we simply say it came about “by itself”.

There was, for example, much discussion about such topics a little over a century ago, when people were interested to know how evolution works. Why do giraffes have long necks? By “natural selection”, it is said — pretty much: via self-organisation. Of course one could also say that the trees grew high, and that is why giraffes have long necks. This begs the question: Why did the trees grow high? And perhaps the best answer might be: Well, not all of them did, but the smaller trees got eaten up by the giraffes. There is no end to this — we simply don’t know.

Ah, but here come some hackers with computers — will they solve such questions with big data? No. They have not even yet jotted down whether the Earth revolves on its axis in a clockwise direction, or a counter-clockwise direction. If some of them are reading this and are getting up to run and record this fact, maybe half of them will write down “clockwise” and the rest will write down “counter-clockwise”. Could this fact (about the earth’s rotation — not whether it is deemed to be clockwise or counter-clockwise) be the cause of all evolutionary processes? Perhaps — after all: presumably the Earth has been rotating this way the entire time during which evolution has happened, and there are no data to contradict this possibility (therefore, some might argue: that is proof! ;) )

Why have both Germanic and Romance languages developed the way they have? Is it evolution? Self-organization? …? Your guess is as good as mine! Or maybe it was the rotation of the Milky Way galaxy? :P

In some languages, animal doctors have a specific name (such as “veterinarian”). Sometimes, there are people who care for specific animals who are not referred to as animal doctors or veterinarians, but by other names — such as “beekeeper”. Yet as far as I know, beekeepers are not to blame if certain species of bees become extinct. Does any of this make any logical sense? No. :|

It seems to be difficult for humans to accept that there are some processes over which they have little or no control — either individually or collectively. The evolution of languages is a good example. Imagine two hypothetical people: Mister X and Mister Y. Mister X and Mister Y might consider themselves to be so great that it doesn’t matter to them whether you call them a veterinarian, an animal doctor, a beekeeper, a banker or a politician. They are both capable of working, but maybe they do not wish to be referred to as “just another worker”. They consider themselves to be “Mister X” and “Mister Y” — so you should refer to them by “their” names.

OK, fine.

But what if someone’s animal is sick? Then that person might search for a solution — would the person say “oh, I know: I will go to Mr. X, because he’s a nice guy and I think he knows a lot”? Perhaps — but what if Mr. X knows nothing about bees, or even about animals in general, … their health, their treatment, etc.? Oh, that would be sad, then the animal might die. :|

No one must refer to an “animal doctor” as a “veterinarian” (or vice versa), and the fact many people do use these (or similar) terms is not by decree or fiat, or as a grass roots movement,… — it simply happens… by self-organisation.

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The most sinister of all retard media hoaxes is the idea that someone has “arrived” in society when they are mentioned in a prominent retard media publication

This hoax is of fundamental importance in retard media — because if retard media makers are able to convince people of this, then they can get people to pay money (i.e., buy advertising space) to appear (in the hope of thereby “arriving” in society) which is the entire business model.

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Knowing how to spell a word is not down to some random person’s opinion — or is it?

It’s understood that Hollywood sells Californication…


“Californication” (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Online literacy is lacking — in particular: Most people have little or no idea of how the “title” idea translates from print to the corresponding concept on the World-Wide Web. Indeed, there may in fact be no corresponding term at all.

In the print era, the mass production of texts dictated that each text needed a unique name. Many thousands of words came to be collectively known as “Moby Dick” — and not just any “Moby Dick”, but specifically Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”.

There is probably no online equivalent for this concept. The file path or directory structure to locate / reference a file has little to do with the construction of a webpage. One single webpage is usually made up of dozens — if not hundreds — of files. The webpage may have a “title” tag in HTML, but there is no limit to the number of HTML pages that can have the same “title” tag, the same “author” tag and so on. There is no control whatsoever of the use of such tags — anyone can give any webpage the “title” tag “Moby Dick” and the “author” tag “Herman Melville“. HTML tags are nothing more than a meaningless farce.

It is particularly ironic, that one of the most valuable “Internet” companies is a search engine that uses such ridiculous data to “organize all the world’s information”… — and 99% of people are so illiterate that they would probably not even get this joke. When people finally wake up and smell the coffee, you had better hope that you have already divested your portfolio of all so-called “tech” stocks, because otherwise you will probably learn a very hard lesson.

The way information is organized online from a legal point of view is an entirely different matter. All information is hierarchically organized in domains, and at each level the authority is inherited from that of the immediately higher level. Most people are completely oblivious of this simple fact, and they actually believe that what they refer to as “their” Facebook page actually belongs to them (and not Facebook, Inc).

Perhaps the most straightforward way of explaining this to the by and large illiterate masses is to compare the web to a set of dictionaries. Just as there is a “Webster’s Dictionary” and also a “Oxford English Dictionary”, so too there is “.com” and “.net”. Indeed: There are many more dictionaries, and there are also many more top-level domains. When someone professes to understand English, they would probably adhere to what most people consider to be English — in other words: In the case of American English, Webster’s Dictionary; In the case of Oxford English, the Oxford Dictionary. For both cases — for dictionaries as well as for top-level domains — each string is given one entry. All of the information about that string (within that dictionary or that top-level domain) is contained in that entry — there are no duplicates. Likewise, just as the team that creates Webster’s Dictionary may be a different team than the team that creates Oxford English Dictionary, so too the team that controls the .com registry may be a different team than the team that controls the .net registry.

This is, more or less, how domains are legally recognized… — but at least 9 times out of 10, people will believe that domains are the online equivalent of “Herman Melville” and/or “Moby Dick”. Likewise: At least 9 out of 10 people believe that entering a string like “Herman Melville” or “Moby Dick” at the website google.com means something more than entering the string somewhere else. Indeed, there are now laws in Europe that aim to regulate what can happen when entering strings at google.com — so perhaps “Google results” are no longer entirely up to the government of the United States of America (as Hillary Clinton once declared them to be). ;)

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